Where are the country's poor?
How do you solve a problem as stubborn as poverty in the Philippines? There is a range of solutions for sure. Regardless of what the direct solution is, however, making sure that interventions are targeted efficiently and effectively should be universal. Which begs the question, where are the country's poorest?
Poverty incidence has consistently gone down though at a slower pace compared to our neighbors. In 2015, poverty incidence was at 21.6%. This means that 21.6% of the population is living below the national poverty line. Nine years before that, poverty incidence was at 26.6% or an 18.8% decrease. Sounds promising, right?
Our poverty incidence is actually a stubborn case. Yes, poverty incidence did go down but not as fast as our neighboring countries. During the same period, Malaysia reduced poverty incidence by 88% from 3.6 to 0.4 while Thailand reduced theirs by 67% from 21.9 to just 7.2. We managed to lower ours by 18.8%. Malaysia had low poverty incidence to begin with while Thailand is relatively more comparable.
The ten areas with the highest poverty incidence as of first semester 2018 are the following. Their average poverty incidence is at 49.09% which is 2.3 times the national average (21.55%) during the same period.
Present figures are important but they do not really give us the whole picture. Another important question to ask would be: has poverty incidence improved or worsened? Nationally, it did. Unfortunately, some areas have yet to bring their poverty incidence down. As a matter of fact, five of the top 10 placers in 2018 were also in the top 10 of 2015.
If interventions are to be targeted, we need to know not just the areas where poverty incidence is high but also those areas with stubborn poverty incidence.
Among the top 10 in 2018, half recorded a decrease in poverty incidence. These areas are Saranggani (23.58% decrease), Zamboanga del Norte (20.31%), Dinagat Islands (19.16%), Sulu (8.36%), and Lanao del Sur (7.86%). Averaging their decrease will yield 15.85%. That sounds good news, right? Before we move on just because the numbers look like they are improving anyway, hold on to that thought.
Of the 87 provinces, major cities, and Metro Manila districts included by the Philippine Statistical Authority, 70 of them recorded a decrease in poverty incidence which averaged… 33%. While the five provinces mentioned above have significantly lowered their poverty incidence (15.85%), they are still not at par with the rest.
In 2011, then President Noynoy Aquino signed Executive Order No. 23 which essentially puts a "moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests nationwide". That might explain why the tree cover loss in 2011 was the second lowest in 17 years according to data compiled by the Global Forest Watch (GFW).
If you look closely at the data, however, forest loss has been increasing since then. In fact, the year 2016 saw the highest lost in tree cover in 17 years which is followed by the year 2010 - both are national elections #conspiracytheory.
You are probably confused by now. A while ago, the data shows that our forest area has increased over the years. That is true according to the data. That only shows that forest gain is higher than forest loss hence there is a forest net gain. This means that we are doing something about gaining more forests than losing. Why is this important to note?
Imagine this. If, say, we are replanting forests to the tune of 2 million hectares BUT we are losing a million hectare of forest due to illegal logging or illegal conversion of forests, our net gain would be down to just one million hectares when the hypothetical illegal lost could have been prevented.
Replanting forests are necessary. Data shows we are relatively doing good in that area. What data is telling us, however, is that we are experiencing unprecedented lost in tree cover. This is despite the 2011 moratorium. That for us is the real challenge.
The next question would be is, where is the most tree cover loss occurring? According to data compiled by Global Forest Watch, Of the ten provinces with the highest tree cover loss, seven is in Mindanao, two is in Luzon, and one is in Visayas.
The poverty incidence indicator has for so long caught our attention for the longest time.